Grammarly: A Review
So, I finally did it. I finally tried this apparently amazing Grammarly--free version, of course--with trepidation. I have never met a grammar checker that I loved, let alone could tolerate. I probably should've tried it ages ago because my students like it and always ask it if is trustworthy. My go-to response was it would probably help, but they shouldn't fully machines machines. My question is, how useful is it for an author or someone who is pretty darn good with grammar? No one is infallible, but some people would find it more useful than others. I put it to the test.
Quick conclusion--not worth my time, unless I invested in premium. Even then, I'm not sure I'd fork out the money just to save time--if it even would do that for me. I'm not being overconfident. When I edit, I'm used to looking at the big picture--everything from commas to content--simultaneously. Just like Grammarly. Do I get it all? No. Does Grammarly? No, and it marks a heck of a lot more that would create mistakes if the advice was taken. The time it took to delete the comments I was confident were wrong, I could've spent on improving sentence flow and word choices that aren't "wrong," but could be stronger.
Let me breakdown the accuracy for you. I entered a chapter of 416 sentences. It was the roughest material I had on hand, meaning I pantsed (freewriting) my way through the chapter and never revised or edited the chapter. Basically, I tested my worst writing, full of typos. There were 28 total mistakes in the free version and 82 in the premium. The free version only does 2 categories: grammar and conciseness. I scored 87/100. Rarely having a B in English classes my entire life, I was a bit deflated... until I looked closer.
Grammar: 22 "mistakes" but only 11 were right. They were mostly my missing commas because I usually overlook them as I type to get my ideas down quickly and add them in during edits. It also missed a few errors I found on my own That is less than 50% accurate.
Weaknesses: Grammarly was weak with verbs and pronouns, trying to get me to swap "his" for "him" although it was not at all a possessive situation. It also was a bit off, meaning it told me something was wrong, but when I tried to figure out why, I saw there was a completely different problem in the sentence that needed correction (counted these as "right"). Useful, yes, but more time consuming than my brain reading the sentence and finding the error. It was tedious in dialogue proclaiming word choice errors that if corrected would make my characters grammar ninjas with the cadence of 1900 when they spoke. It doesn't understand complex wording with multiple clauses, multiple subjects--pretty much if it isn't a simple sentence, it might not follow.
Strengths: It did seem to excel for typos (but Word had them underlined already) and for basic punctuation (not all, more about this when I talk about premium). I imagine this would be very useful for those who lack grammar skills. It'll get half the job done, and for some people, that is a big improvement.
I had 6 errors, but only 3 could be changed, only 1 of those was a true mistake, and the 3 others, if I listened, would ruin the clarity completely. This category doesn't seem too useful for me because I was pretty concise despite my complex sentence structures according to the data and the 3 to get rid of were my common overused words on my list to check for. I also didn't like how it could try to strip narrative voice and style from a piece, like purposeful repetition for emphasis (and clarity in my situation).
I can see how this would be useful for business writing and emails, but not creative writing. It would strip it of its art.
So would the premium version be better? The sneak peek told me my compound-complex sentences had improper or missing punctuation. Out of the 82 errors, 46 were these. I was missing commas, but it also didn't like my properly used em dashes. Funny how the free one found so few commas (interesting). I'm never too concerned about commas and trust my brain, my CPs, and my publishers to catch them. All 3 of these are free for me.
One additional annoyance is the usual marketing gimmicks. I tried just to do a little test, which leads you to believe you'll get results. Not until you sign up. Not only that, I felt forced to get the Chrome plugin. Next, you only get the 2 out of 4 categories. There are many prompts that crop up trying to get you to buy premium. The discrepancy between free and premium of the issues is vast, so you'll fork out the cash to get an actual checker that could improve your writing (would need to test it out more to determine that). Last, I was told I plagiarized before I signed up, but can only get it on premium. Considering this is a work of fiction, of my making, without references to other literature, I think that it was another marketing method to get people writing essays to buy the software. Working with plagiarism software in my job, I bet silly things like "Chapter 9" show up. I understand it is a business out to make a profit, but things like this are reasons I dropped business as a major. I just find these things underhanded.
I can't foresee buying this, but I might keep the free plugin for emails, blogs, and such, but cannot foresee buying premium or using it for my novel writing. For simple tasks, it seems useful, and compared to other ones I have seen, the premium seems pretty decent. That's if you can afford it.
Additions: I tried another chapter of similar length that I had revised once, then edited once (I always do at least one more pass through after). This one 98% percent solid, with 9 "errors." Once inspected, I missed one comma and repeated a word accidentally and didn't catch it. The other 6 were 2 choices that were stylistic (they wanted me to change into something that would change the meaning completely) and the other 4 had I took the advice, would create 2 subject-verb disagreements, and it didn't understand em dashes or the use of stylistic fragments. The premium gave me twenty errors but God only knows without the subscription why they are flagging character names or words they feel are wrong that aren't and again a disdain for both fragments and "intricate" sentences.
I will allow, it helped in 1 way only: social media. It flags my typos which saves me time. For my writing, this is not a tool for fiction writers unless you self-publish and want to use it in one round of final edits to double-check or you struggle terribly with grammar it might help with some things, but I would suggest hiring an editor instead. A professional human being would be a much more lucrative use of your money. Hire an editor.